Chat with James Walker
Walker joined ESPN.com in 2008 after three seasons covering the Cleveland Browns for the Columbus Dispatch. He also covered the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Cavaliers at the Dispatch. Walker grew up in Hyattsville, Md., before attending Temple University, graduating in 2001 with a B.A. in communications and mass media. He resides in the Cleveland area.
Send your questions now and join Walker on Tuesday at 11 a.m. ET!
James Walker (11:00 AM)
Everyone, I hope you're doing well. Let's get into some questions.
DO you think with the injury to tom Brady, and the Decline in Cleveland that the steelers could be the team to beat in the AFC?
James Walker (11:02 AM)
The Steelers are my top rated team in the AFC at the moment. We have our power rankings coming out later today and I voted for them No. 3 overall behind the Cowboys and Giants. But an injury or slump can change anything week to week, so I wouldn't look too far ahead.
I'm dying to have a big game, will my offense ever get going? What's been the problem on O?
James Walker (11:03 AM)
T.J., I understand your struggle. But you and Chad Ocho Cinco aren't getting as open as in the past. The running game is not there and Carson Palmer already is taking a beating. Nothing is going right at the moment.
Tim (Kalamazoo, MI)
Is Chad Ocho Cinco worth keeping on my fantasy team, eventhough he has 5 points through 2 weeks?
James Walker (11:04 AM)
You have to keep a talent of that caliber. Whether you want to play him right now is a different story. The offense can't get out of their current fog.
Jake, New York City
Who wins the Giants-Cincy game? I think the Giants go 3-1 against this division beat Cincy, Cleve, destroy the Ravens and lose to Pittsburgh. Your thoughts?
James Walker (11:06 AM)
I usually wait until the injury reports come in before making a firm decision. But it's safe to go with the Giants right now. The two lines are big mismatches with the way these teams are playing right now. Carson could be in for a beating.
Joe (Atlantic City, NJ)
In lieu of Shanahan's gutsy 2pt conversion call, should coaches be more aggressive in how they handle their play calling? I for one am getting tired of the Steelers sitting on the ball and trying to run out the clock. I don't have a problem with the occasional pass play, but to give the Browns the ball back with 76 yds and 20+ seconds is too much. Especially knowing we probably could have converted the 3rd down with a short pass play.
James Walker (11:07 AM)
Great question, Joe. I would save Mike remains a maverick on this one. Most coaches simply wouldn't make that call, and even after the success, most coaches still won't make that call. That's why it's considered gutsy.
Dan (Buffalo, NY)
James, while the defense looked better Sunday night, the offense (Especially Edwards) looked out of synch. Will they turn it around this week in Baltimore? Are the next two games must wins if they Browns have any hope of contending in this division? Thanks
James Walker (11:09 AM)
Baltimore is a difficult defense to pin your hopes of a turnaround on. Cleveland's offense had little time together in training camp and the preseason and everyone is finding out that they need to get their work in. This might be another low-scoring affair.
Steve, Pittsburgh, PA
Willie Parker looks like a million bucks, why no hype for Fast Willie?
James Walker (11:10 AM)
FWP, as you all like to call him, is off to a great start. He's been one of the big success stories of the 2008 season. You should check out the feature I wrote on him in May.
With the way the Eagles put up points so easily on the Cowboys, what do the Steelers have to do to either Score with them or keep them from scoring?
James Walker (11:11 AM)
The Steelers would rather keep it low scoring. I wouldn't put too much stock in Philly giving up so many points. Sometimes familiar division rivals know your scheme so well that games like that can break out.
If the Browns don't start winning more games this year and are out of the playoff hunt, what are the odds D. A. gets replaced with Dr. Quinn the medicine man?
James Walker (11:14 AM)
I've been around the Browns complex for most of the past week and I haven't heard anything about a quarterback change. Derek Anderson is not playing his best football, but he is not the team's main concern. I would say Braylon Edwards' struggles are of chief concern to the offense right now.
dan (buffalo, ny)
james, any news on Stallworth? will he start earning that 35 mil any time soon?
James Walker (11:16 AM)
Dan, I asked Romeo Crennel that question yesterday and got a wait-and-see type answer. His quad his still bothering him. The question is will he return when he's 100 percent or play a little less than that. We will know more tomorrow.
What chances are you giving the Browns to win these next 2 games?
James Walker (11:17 AM)
The Browns feel they can pull it off. They need to worry about Baltimore first and take it from there. Cleveland was 3-5 on the road last year and you never know what you're going to get from them.
Nick (Sandusky, OH)
James, when will Phil Savage and Browns realize that they cannot run a 3-4 Defense with their current linebackers? Our outside linebackers cannot rush the QB and our inside linebackers cannot stop the run or cover receivers. We just don't have the personnel to run the 3-4. Although Shaun Rogers looks like a beast! He is the only player applying any pressure.
James Walker (11:18 AM)
Nick, I feel like I get this question every week for the past two years. The Browns defense has struggled for a long time. But the team drafted players to play in a 3-4. It is very little chance they would go back on that.
Mike (Garwood NJ)
B Keisel out for a period of time for the Steelers. What do you think the impacts are?
James Walker (11:19 AM)
Keisel is a solid player for Pittsburgh. But the team has a deep rotation of about four or five players and I feel they can hold down the fort for the next month or so.
James, love the blog. If the ravens beat the browns sunday do you think the they may have a shot at a wild card this year? With the AFC in dissaray, and the ravens then sitting 2-0 (both against division opponents) it seems its within the realm of possibility.
James Walker (11:21 AM)
I felt the Ravens were a sleeper team from the beginning of the season. A win over the Browns would do wonders for them in terms of helping themselves and virtually knocking out a division rival.
Is there one player out there that you believe the Browns could sign or trade for that would help fill the injury problems and help them get back on track?
James Walker (11:23 AM)
Clint, there's a lot of players. But I'm tired of naming them. Phil Savage has said over and over again the the solution is in their building. So if it's not a possibility, I'm not going to harp on that subject any longer.
James Walker (11:23 AM)
Let me correct myself. There's several players. Not "a lot of players."
James, thanks for your coverage of the AFC North, I'm a loyal reader all day at work. Here's my issue: I was at the Titans game on Sunday, and after watching first hand, not just armchair quarterbacking, I saw Carson struggling the most of seemingly everyone on the field. The O-Line, while nowhere near perfect, was at least playing a bit better and the skill players were doing their job for the most part better than last week. But what are the chances that playing Fitzpatrick for a few series might drum up something different for our offense? I'm at a loss watching my team struggle with that much talent on the field.
James Walker (11:24 AM)
Carson is struggling, but so is everyone else on that offense. Are you saying bench Carson Palmer? C'mon Nick. Don't go there.
When will the Lions realize they are not a 10 win team?
James Walker (11:25 AM)
I think there's only one guy who believes that.
With the extra week off is McGahee finally back to 100% or will he be limited this week?
James Walker (11:25 AM)
100 percent may be pushing it. But he will be much healthier than he was two weeks ago. He says he's ready.
Jay (Reading, PA)
What's the real deal with Ben's shoulder? We've heard everything from sore to seperated. He was obviously hurting a little on Sunday but it didn't really seem to affect his power or accuracy. Any more info today?
James Walker (11:27 AM)
The Steelers aren't talking, thus the reason for conflicting reports. What I saw from Ben on the field Sunday night and after the game in the locker room he looked fine. But only the Steelers know the extent at the moment.
Steve, Blackpool, England
James, The Browns have been dreadful so far despite being the "trendy" pick for the division. Do you think that it might be an advantage to now be facing 2 key road games v. divisional rivals in the next weeks - i.e. 2 weeks from now they could be flying (even at 2-2!!) or dead and buried at 0-4 for the season.
James Walker (11:29 AM)
Indeed, this is a big two weeks for the Browns that will determine their season. If they're 2-2, all is well again heading into the bye. If they're 0-4 going into the bye, that will not be good.
James, FWP has looked good the first two games--third in rushing yards. What do you think his chances are of finally getting the rushing title this year?
James Walker (11:30 AM)
Rocky, putting up numbers have never been a problem. If Parker stays healthy, he should be right up there all season.
Will Lewis find any running room this week vs his old team?
James Walker (11:31 AM)
Jamal Lewis should no better than anything, there are not many creases in that Ravens defense. They just don't give up 100-yard rushers. Cleveland is better off testing them through the air.
Jesse (Raleigh, NC)
Is it just me, or does it seem like DA cannot think for himself on the field? I don't get the impression he leads the offense, rather he is given a play and tries to implement it. When there is a communication breakdown with his equipment, he looks really flustered on the field. At the end of the first half, the clock is ticking down and he is at mid-field getting a play while the rest of the team is down at the 30. I understand it his 2nd year starting, but I just don't see his leadership/tangibles improving. Your thoughts?
James Walker (11:34 AM)
That is a very astute observation, Jesse. Derek doesn't have the freedom other elite QBs have such as Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. The Browns rarely go no huddle and Anderson rarely gets to call his own plays. That's why you see some confusion at the end of halves and games when he has no choice. But Derek has to earn that status first, and to this point he hasn't with the coaching staff.
EzEd (CinCity, Ohio)
Whats the deal w/ Mendenhall?... Why is he not getting more carries?... is Willie just too good to take out?
James Walker (11:36 AM)
Parker is doing it all right now. Bruce Arians sees no need to take out the hot hand. Mendenhall will be ready when the time comes.
Dave (Pittsburgh, PA)
Shaun Rogers looked mostly ineffective against the Steelers O-line, he was getting pushed around for most of the game on Sunday, is it time to recognize the Steelers O-line as much improved from last year?
James Walker (11:37 AM)
I'm not sure we watched the same game. Rogers was nearly unblockable Sunday night.
Did you enjoy Hinz kicking up dirt after his TD?
James Walker (11:38 AM)
I thought it was very creative, especially considering the natural hatred between these two teams.
James are you looking forward to the Shaun Rogers, Jason Brown matchup as much as I am?
James Walker (11:39 AM)
Should be a good one. I have a feeling Jason Brown will not be blocking Shaun Rogers alone, though.
Marc (Malden, MA)
If DA doesn't have the confidence from his coach to run a no huddle, then when is Brady Quinn getting the starting job? How can you have a QB you have little or no confidence in?
James Walker (11:40 AM)
I doubt Brady Quinn would get freedom to call his own plays either. In fact, Quinn may get less freedom because the team doesn't know how he will react in big games just yet.
Mike (Odenton, MD)
Do you see Flacco having a breakout game against the Browns secondary this sunday?
James Walker (11:44 AM)
Flacco just needs to manage and win the game. I don't think the Ravens want to let Flacco let it fly just yet. The team will stick to its identity of being physical, playing defense, and being smart with the football on offense.
James, were the Cleveland fans actually cheering when Ryan Clark went down? It sounded as though they were on TV, which is reportedly what promted Farrior's taunting penalty. Any thoughts?
James Walker (11:45 AM)
I was in the pressbox and I don't recall hearing anything. I believe Braylon Edwards also had his bell rung on that play as well and both were down.
Do you think the Bengals can ever be a successful playoff contender under Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis?
James Walker (11:46 AM)
I don't see it happening this year. Beyond that it's too far to look ahead.
What's up with the Steelers return team? It seems like we have problems on special teams every year.
James Walker (11:48 AM)
It's the NFL. Teams can't be strong everywhere. There's too much balance. Pittsburgh's special teams hasn't been nearly as good as its offense and defense. But it seems improved so far.
Is Josh Cribbs Still Hurt he didnt look him self?
James Walker (11:49 AM)
I don't know for sure. But I think Josh Cribbs came back a little early because he wanted to help the team beat Pittsburgh. I don't think he's 100 percent.
James, do you have a feeling one way or another about the outcome of the Browns-Ravens game?
James Walker (11:50 AM)
I try to withold from predictions until the injury reports so I know who's playing. It should be a close game either way.
Anthony (Columbus, Oh)
Is the Steelers run D that good or is the Browns offensive line just not opening holes for Lewis?
James Walker (11:52 AM)
The Steelers run defense is very good. The Browns and Lewis, also, seem a little bit off. The offense is making a lot of minor mistakes that it didn't make last season.
Ron (Clarks Summit, PA)
When healthy, will Deshea Townsend move back into the starting lineup at CB, or will Bryant McFadden keep the job from here on out?
James Walker (11:54 AM)
This will be a tough call with the way McFadden is playing. Both players will see the field a lot, either way.
Do you think the Bengals defense has improved over last years defense?
James Walker (11:56 AM)
Too early to tell with just two games. I see a lot of the same mistakes from last year, but I also see the defense playing harder. They need to be more physical and stop the run before anything else.
How much does it help the Steelers that the Eagles have a short week to prepare? Also, do you think that track meet last night will have any lingering effect on Philly this week?
James Walker (11:58 AM)
I don't think it hurts the Eagles that much. Both teams had physically demanding games against its biggest rival the week before. I don't see an advantage.
Did you ever expect in Coach Romeo that we'd see such poor late-game decisions (i.e. kicking the FG late in the game in week 1, clock management issues)? I figured from a Belicheat disciple, I'd see more.
James Walker (12:00 PM)
The jump from assistant to head coach is the biggest jump in the NFL. Assisstants never had to worry about these things before, so you never know how each person will handle it when they get the job.
Mike (Cincinnati, OH)
James, I liked Nick's thoughts posted above about potentially playing backup QB Fitzpatrick some more. We are very lucky to have such a great quarterback in Carson Palmer, and he continues to be a great leader on the field, and brings in fantastic talent with his connection to USC (i.e. LB Keith Rivers). HOWEVER, I think that by now, many teams (especially those in the AFC North) have figured out his play calling, and style of play. Why not let Fitzpatrick- a different style of QB that is MUCH more mobile than Carson- take the reigns for a couple of series to mix things up a bit? I just can't bear to watch Carson continue to struggle with 3 interceptions in the past two games, terrible passer ratings, and even worse- get beaten up on every single play... the last thing the Bengal faithful needs is another injury like the one Carson suffered in 2005
James Walker (12:01 PM)
James Walker (12:02 PM)
Hey everyone. Thanks again for your time. Enjoy this week's games and remember to check out the AFC North blog. JW
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